NHL replacement players? Forget about it!

I have always been a big fan of Abba. Love the music, the beat and even the dancing they did in concert. However, unlike Wanye after a break up, I never cried myself to sleep listening to ‘One of Us’. Doesn’t mean I didn’t feel the passion!

I would love to see them live in concert. It would be awesome. Reports out of Sweden say they were offered a billion dollars to get back together. They turned it down, no chance of a reunion tour. Brutal! So what is the next best thing?

Replacements! Same music, clothes, beat and dancing, but still just replacements. It just wouldn’t be the same. The quality just wouldn’t be there.

Earlier in the week former Toronto Maple Leafs assistant G.M. Bill Watters suggested he wouldn’t be surprised if the NHL turned to replacement players by mid-November. Other leagues have done this before. The goal of this tactic would be to break the union by having NHLPA members cross the line.

If the NHL decided to go this route it would make life very tough on many NHLPA members. Does a guy cross or not? Who would be the first guy? How long to wait before crossing? I wouldn’t want to have to make these choices. Even though you are a member of the NHLPA at some point you have to do what is right for just you. It could mean becoming a scab.

I am less interested in the reaction of NHLPA members than I am in the NHL fans. Would they want to see scabs play? Would you?

Where would these replacement players come from? Where are the next best 750 hockey players hiding? My guess would be the AHL, the European leagues and drafted players currently playing at a junior level somewhere in the world.

Would the hockey be good? It would be about the same level as the AHL.

NHL-Caliber Players

Photo: southcentral/Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 2.0

Right off the top, the most talented players are no longer playing in the NHL. So no Crosby, Malkin, Kane, Jagr, or Parise. Eventually, players would come along to fill the star power the NHL has now but it would take time. Don’t expect it by Christmas or even in the next three years.

Could the bottom half of the roster be replaced right away? You could find guys to take those spots but they would all be missing something current third and fourth liners have. Many guys in the AHL cannot break through to the NHL because they are pretty good at a few roles required on a NHL roster but a master of none.

The bottom half of NHL rosters are made up of specialists. Even though they may not have the top end talent the top two lines have, trust me, they have plenty of talent. It is not super easy to replace them. If it is why do so many teams struggle to find a great fourth line center that wins draws? Energy players that bring it every night but can also think the game? Penalty killers that are willing to risk their lives by diving in front of Shea Weber bombs and most often not get hurt?

Trust me, the NHL-caliber player isn’t all over the place. Are there good hockey players outside the NHL? Yes. But they are not the same caliber.

The replacement player NHL would be of a lower speed and quality. Would you want to go and watch for the same price you pay now for Oilers tickets? How about fifty percent of that? Thirty percent? Fifteen percent? Now the price is down to what you would pay to see a game in the AHL because that is the level of play you would be watching.

Nope, I don’t think replacement players are the solution, compromise is. But if there were replacements players, who do you think would be the first current NHL player to cross the line and join the replacements?


  • Mumbai Max

    I am all for replacement players. Of course there would be a dip for awhile, but the vast bulk of the 700+ players would come back in droves within months. Where else are they going to go? The top 100 can get cherry KHL or SEL jobs, but for most of the players, the NHL is the only real option, despite the bluster. The big fat mortgage payments are due, and the wife is whining. Time to get back to the rink.

    Cap salaries at 40 million. No salary floor. Cap ticket prices at x (whatever is required after doing the math). Everyone wins. Owners have less revenue but the better profit, fans have cheaper ticket prices and less inflated idols, and the players can avoid selling cars or linoleum.

    I can never forget the mental image of Mike Modano’s starving dog.

    Sorry, firmly on the side of the owners, if a side is needed. Certainly not with the players.

  • Greenlingj

    I like the use of words like entitlement and right in this article.

    for any person who claims how much work or sacrifice they put into doing something they love lost the point of what it means to play at that level. Anyone who claims they have a right or put their time in to be in the NHL lost the point. many great hockey players are out theyre that never got the chance, and if they got offered 40k a year to play hockey they wouldnt think twice about it.

    I often watch my cousins play bantam and midget hockey games and every now and then they have ice times at 9:00pm which means they are off just after 11 usually. at that time 11:00pm, you usually see the recreational players go out. the guys who never made it to the NHL, the guys who actually sacrifice to play the game they love.

    These men and women, (mostly men) put in a full work week, maybe hit the gym a few times a week and always find a way to get on the ice. You see working 40+ a week, family, personal commitmients come first, but they always get out there and play as often as they can.

    They don’t play NHL “level” hockey but they are damn grateful they can at the least lace the skates up, and they pay to play.

    Would I watch replacement players? yes I would I cheer for the Oilers, not the name on the back of the jersey.

    • Greenlingj

      Some of the most entertaining hockey we watch is non-NHL i.e. junior hockey. The reason being there are wide discrepancies in skill level, hockey sense, and incredible passion. I think replacement players would bring an exciting brand of hockey. NHL is a bit too stiff around the collar these days. Too much ‘system’ play, not enough risks, every player is ‘over coached’. When you watch the 1972/1987 replays on TSN, I am struck by how good the hockey is – mainly because the players have personality and different styles of play. Today’s game lacks individuality and creativity. Perhaps it is the coaches we should lock out?

  • Greenlingj

    Bottom line:

    Put the NHL on hold for a couple of years and the owners will carry on with their core businesses.

    The players will be lined up at Purolator looking for part-time delivery jobs, as most have ZERO education or any other sought-after skills. All eggs. One basket.

    I’m not entirely on one side or the other, but both sides need some perspective with the realization that NHL hockey, for the most part, is just inconsequential entertainment. We’re not talking health care or education here.

  • Greenlingj

    i would watch replacement players,how can a nhl player not be happy with what he is being payed? and the owners can make as much as they can,good for them,they bought the team.if anybody wants to buy a team there are some for sale.

  • Greenlingj

    Seems to me that if players are A-OK with playing for other teams in Europe during the lockout than they should have NO PROBLEM with NHL teams playing with different players too. I woud LOVE to see the NHL offer contracts to all of the Euro payers who have lost their jobs to NHLer’s.

  • Congratulations. I believe this is the most embarrassing collection of comments I have ever read on this site. My apologies to Jason Strudwick, whose innocuous, straight-forward comments about the possibility of replacement players have been distorted and attacked by posters who apparently feel empowered by insulting a former professional athlete from a safe distance.

    When Jason says the players have earned the right to play in the NHL he obviously means they have earned it by becoming one of the best 750 players in the world, not that they have some legal or inalienable right to be offered an NHL contract.

    Jason says players do feel lucky to be playing a kid’s game for lots of money, but the fact is that most of them made it because of hard work, sacrifice and courage, combined with innate talent. Players that have the talent but not the moxie, think Robert Nilsson and Patrick O’Sullivan, don’t last. If you don’t continue to go to the tough areas and take the punishment you are gone before long. Obviously Jason had some talent but anyone who ever watched him play must know that the crucial factors in his career were heart, savvy and determination, plus being a good teammate.

    To those who claim they would pay to see replacement players I have one question. If some guys, say some new immigrants or refugees from Africa, were willing to take your job and your co-workers jobs for a few bucks less an hour and less benefits than you receive, would you think that was cool? Would it bother you if everyone who knew you supported your replacements? I think you know the answer.

    • I honestly believe there are very few commenters on here that don’t appreciate the players ability to get to the NHL, I think you might be overreacting a little. IMO.

      Having said that, I find it ironic, funny and mostly hypocritical when people mention they won’t watch replacement players?

      The Edmonton Oilers prior to this year by definition have been using replacement players, AHL caliber players so they can tank there way to a last place finishes.

      Also, I just love your hypocritical statement about refugees taking jobs away! So let’s reverse that comment and see what we come up with.

      Nash, OV8, Jagr, Hemsky, Kovelchuck etc,etc, just went over to Europe to play, they stole some guys job who makes significantly less, just so they can stay in shape and make even more MONEY while the NHLPA and its brethren support this!

      Meanwhile some poor bastard who makes ten times less and gets no HRR just got his job ripped off by some millionaire hockey player playing in a league
      where the NHL player will receive zero HRR, and your ok with this?

      This stinks of irony and Hypocrisy

      So how is it ok that the NHL players can do this, but then its not ok to use replacement players? I think you know the answer.

  • Jason Strudwick

    Your analogy only works if NHL players are taking the jobs of those in Europe by playing for less money than the Europeans or fringe NAs are paid, when the opposite is in fact the case. You might as well say NHL free agents are scabs because when they are signed they take the place of other players. Nice try though.

  • Wes -Read SLOWLY. A scab is someone who accepts LESS money or benefits to take someone’s job during a strike or lockout.

    There is no strike or lockout in Europe. If European club owners want to pay MORE to hire a locked out NHLer because he is a better player than some they have, not LESS to save money, the player is NOT a scab. He is just a better player. He has NOT broken the working man’s code. That is obviously what I am arguing Wes. The imaginary immigrant workers are paid LESS.

    If the Oilers put Corey Potter on waivers because they signed Justin Schultz as a free agent that does not make Schultz a scab. Better players get jobs ahead of lesser ones. This is the way professional sports work Wes. Teams try to get better players and will pay more to get them. There is a finite number of places. This is NOT the Gainers’ strike.

    If NHL clubs hire fringe players to play cheap while they lockout their contracted players the replacements are SCABS and you are not much better if you pay to watch them. That IS the Gainers’ strike and you are eating SCAB sausages. Enjoy them.

  • Dawn

    Since the KHL is increasing their roster size to absorb the 3 players they are allowed to bring in from the NHL so as not to be caught short when the lockout ends, it largely negates many of the prior comments. In the KHL, at least, the jobs are not being taken from the existing players. No job stealing. No starving Kazakhstan families. Happy Russian teams with a more competitive product. Happy Russian fans with a chance to watch NHL stars, many of them the proverbial prodigal sons returning home. My only problem with the guys playing overseas is a fear that some of them won’t want to come back. (Please Nail, remember that we will love you just as much as your hometown fans.)

    As for watching replacement players here… Meh. I’d probably watch in much the same way you can’t tear your eyes away from a slow-motion train wreck. But without the Eberle toe-drag forehand to backhand and magic whack it out of the air goals, without Hall flying down the side wall, would I really care? No. Not so much. The story that I care about is the fruits of the rebuild, the Cinderella story, my guys that I’ve sweated and cheered for, not some guys that didn’t have the ingredients to make it to the NHL in the first place.